5 Herbs for Pregnancy

Wise women have recommended herbal tonics for childbearing for thousands of years. These tonic herbs are safe and notably effective.

Tonics allay annoyances and prevent major problems. They can boost the supply of vital minerals and vitamins, increase energy and improve uterine tone. Some uterine tonics are contraindicated during pregnancy or are restricted to the last few weeks of pregnancy.

Herbs you should avoid during pregnancy are: black cohosh, shatavari root, false unicorn root, fenugreek, southernwood, wormwood, mugwort, gentian, goldenseal, horehound, conudrango, rue, tansy, pennyroyal, feverfew, lobelia, bloodroot, barberry, ipeac, autumn crocus, scotch broom, mayapple, celadine, juniper, thuja, nutmeg (in copious amounts), butternut, purging buckthorn, buckthorn, cascara sagranda, Chinese rhubarb, senna, quinine, lily of the valley, cotton, poke, queen's delight, periwinkle, mistletoe, and male fern (1)

The tonics indicated for pregnancy need to be used regularly; a tonic is to the cells much as exercise is to the muscles: not much use when done erratically. Though occasional use of tonics during pregnancy will be of benefit, since they do contain nourishing factors. Benefit will come from using them 5 times a week or more, try to aim 1 cup per day per trimester as a general ruleIf you have a history of miscarriage wait until 13 weeks.

Wise women herbalist see that most of the problems of pregnancy can be prevented by attention to nutrition. Morning sickness and mood swings are connected to low blood sugar; backaches and severe labour pains often result from insufficient calcium; varicose veins, hemorrhoids, constipation, skin discolorations and anemia are evidence of lack of specific nutrients; preeclampsia, the most severe problem of pregnancy, is a form of acute malnutrition.

During pregnancy nutrients are required to create the cells needed to form two extra pounds of uterine muscle, the nerves, bones, organs, muscles, glands and skin of the fetus, several pounds of amniotic fluid, a placenta and a 50 percent increase in blood volume. In addition, extra kidney and liver cells are needed to process the waste of two beings instead of one. Remember your body is BUILDING A HUMAN BEING, this is no small feat!

Some simple suggestions to get into the habit of using herbal tonics: replace your morning cup of coffee with a rich herbal infusion. Brew up some raspberry leaf tea and put it in the refrigerator to drink instead of soda, juice or regular iced tea. The following herbs have been used by women in many cultures for centuries to have a healthier pregnancy.

Raspberry is the best known, most widely used, and safest of all uterine and pregnancy tonic herbs. It contains fragrine, an alkaloid which gives tone to the muscles of the pelvic region, including the uterus itself.

Most of the benefits ascribed to regular use of Red Raspberry Leaf (RRL) tea through pregnancy can be traced to the strengthening power of fragine or to the nourishing power of the vitamins and minerals found in this plant. Of special note are the rich concentration of vitamin C, the presence of vitamin E and the easily assimilated calcium and iron. Raspberry leaves also contain vitamins A and B complex and many minerals, including phosphorous and potassium. 

TIP: As RRL is higher in tannin content, if tannins adversely affect you try preparing your herbal teas as a COLD infusion to minimize the tannins.

The benefits of drinking a raspberry leaf brew before and throughout pregnancy include:
*Increasing fertility in both men and women. Raspberry leaf is an excellent fertility herb when combined with Red Clover.
*Preventing miscarriage and hemorrhage. Raspberry leaf tones the uterus and helps prevent miscarriage and postpartum hemorrhage from a relaxed or atonic uterus.
*Easing of morning sickness. Many attest to raspberry leaf's gentle relief of nausea and stomach distress throughout pregnancy.
*Reducing pain during labour and after birth. By toning the muscles used during labour and delivery, Raspberry leaf eliminates many of the reasons for a painful delivery and prolonged recovery. It does not, however, counter the pain of pelvic dilation.
*Providing a safe and speedy parturition. Raspberry leaf works to encourage the uterus to let go and function without tension. It does not strengthen contractions, but does allow the contracting uterus to work more effectively and so may  make the birth easier and faster.
*Assisting in the production of plentiful breast milk. The high mineral content of Raspberry leaf assist in milk production, but its astringency may counter that for some women.
*Easily assimilated content of calcium and magnesium, to relieve leg cramps.
*Also high in iron, the leaves and berries help prevent anemia.

NETTLE LEAVES (Urtica Dioca)
Less well known as a pregnancy tonic but deserving a wider reputation and use. Nettle is one of the finest nourishing tonics known. It is reputed to have more chlorophyll than any other herb. The list of vitamins and minerals in this herb includes nearly every one known to be necessary for human health and growth. Nettle leaves are a storehouse of nutrition, with high iron and calcium contents, as well as an excellent source of folic acid, an essential nutrient during pregnancy. Nettle strengthens the kidneys, which is very important during pregnancy since your kidney's have to work twice as hard to support your increased blood volume, and adrenals. Also Nettle relieves fluid retention and supports the vascular system, it can prevent varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Postpartum, it increases breast milk. Nettle tea has a rich, green taste and can be mixed with other herbs.

Vitamins A, C, D and K, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron and sulphur are particularly abundant in nettles. The infusion is a dark green color, it taste is deep and rich. 

Some pregnant women alternate weeks of nettle and raspberry brews; others drink raspberry until the last month and then switch to nettles to insure large amounts of vitamin K in the blood before birth.

The benefits of drinking nettle infusion before and throughout pregnancy include:
*Aiding the kidneys. Since the kidneys must cleanse 150percent of the normal blood supply for most of the pregnancy, nettle's ability to nourish and strengthen them is of major importance. Any accumulation of minerals in the kidneys, such as gravel or stones is gently loosened, dissolved and eliminated by the consistent use of nettle infusions.
* Increasing fertility in women and men.
* Nourishing mother and fetus.
* Easing leg cramps and other spasms.
* Diminishing pain during and after birth. The high calcium content, which is readily assimilated, helps diminish muscle pains in the uterus, in the legs and elsewhere.
* Preventing hemorrhage after birth. Nettle is a superb source or vitamin K, and increased available hemoglobin, both of which decrease the likelihood of postpartum hemorrhage. Fresh Nettle Juice, in teaspoon doses, slows postpartum bleeding.
* Reducing hemorrhoids. Nettle's mild astringency and general nourishing action tightens and strengthens blood vessels, helps maintain arterial elasticity and improves venous resilience.
* Increasing the richness and amount of breast milk.

 DANDELION LEAF (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion leaf tea increases digestion and promotes bile to relieve constipation. It is one of the best herbs for cleansing and strengthening the liver, our main detoxifying organ. The liver breaks down hormones no longer needed by the body after birth, and any drugs that may have been given at birth. Containing calcium and iron, roasted dandelion leaf’s coffee-like flavor, is an excellent morning beverage. Add a handful of the fresh leaves, high in vitamin A, to other greens in salads.

The benefits of drinking dandelion infusion before and throughout pregnancy include:
*Preventing and treating pre-eclampsia and strengthening the liver. (Poor functioning of the liver is both symptomatic and a causative of pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a serious issue that requires medical attention.).
*Gentle diuretic, helping the body to eliminate excess water retention, which is so common during pregnancy. Unlike typical diuretics, though, Dandelion Leaf will not rob the body of important nutrients, but will instead supply and feed the body with it's readily-available vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium, folic acid and iron.
*It helps the kidneys function better and also helps to prevent and correct anemia.

OATSTRAW (Avena sativa)
Did you know during pregnancy your body can absorb TWICE as much calcium than when you aren't pregnant?! Really that's amazing. Consider how beneficial this is information is for when you are postpartum, lactating and go into menopause. A single cup of of Oatstraw infusion contains more than 300mg of calcium. It is really important to take advantage of this limited window opportunity. Oatstraw is rich in calcium, it is sometimes referred to as "Milky Oats". Oatstraw contains vitamins B, C, D, E and K plus cartotenes and many minerals such as calcium, magnesium, chromium and silica. Silica is one of the go to minerals for weak and thinning hair & nails. Milky Oats in tincture form is great reliable nerve tonic, especially for nervous exhaustion and is commonly combined with chamomile, passion flower or lavender.  Combined with Dandelion it is my go to remedy for women struggling with PUPPPS. It is safe for pregnancy and nursing.  

LEMON BALM (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon Balm, commonly known as "Melissa, is a mint with a distinctly lemony scent. It originated in Southern Europe but is now found in many parts of the world. The leaves, stems and flowers of the Lemon Balm plant have been traditionally used for medicinal purposes. The term "balm" in refers to balsam, the ancient world's most important sweet-smelling oils. For thousands of years herbalists used lemon balm to treat any kind of disorder of the central nervous system. The terpenes of the Lemon Balm, part of its pleasant smelling essential oils, produce this herb's relaxing and gas-relieving effects.

Lemon Balm contains flavonoids, polyphenolics, and other compounds that appear to be responsible for this herb's anti-herpes and thyroid-regulating actions. Lemon balm is frequently combined with other medicinal plants. For example, peppermint and lemon balm together are effective for calming upset stomach. Valerian is often combined with lemon balm for insomnia and nerve pain. Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus) and lemon balm are usually used together for Graves' disease.

To make lemon balm tea, the leaves are infused in rolling boiling water. The length of the steep will determine the strength of the taste of the lemon balm in the tea.

The benefits of drinking lemon balm infusion:
*Lemon Balm Tea can be used to fight insomnia and sleeping difficulties.
*Lemon Balm Tea can be used to treat nerve pain.
*Lemon Balm Tea helps in alleviating disorders of the digestive tract and gas problems.
*Lemon Balm Tea may help in the treatment of thyroid-related problems, though caution should be exercised by those on thyroid hormone treatment.
*Lemon Balm Tea may help in strengthening memory and other brain functions.
*Lemon Balm Tea may help in enhancing and improving the mood.


How to Make Nourishing Herbal Infusions by Susun Weed

An infusion is a large amount of herb brewed for a long time. Typically, one ounce by weight (about a cup by volume) of dried herb is placed in a quart jar which is then filled to the top with boiling water, tightly lidded and allowed to steep for 4-10 hours. After straining, a cup or more is consumed, and the remainder chilled to slow spoilage. Drinking 2-4 cups a day is usual. Since the minerals and other phytochemicals in nourishing herbs are made more accessible by drying, dried herbs are considered best for infusions.

I make my infusions at night before I go to bed and they are ready in the morning. I put my herb in my jar, boil my water and pour the boiling water up to the rim of the jar, screw on a tight lid, In the morning, I strain the plant material out, squeezing it well, and drink the liquid. I prefer it iced, unless the morning is frosty. I drink the quart of infusion within 48 hours.

1 heaping handful of loose herbs (leaves), is about 1 ounce in weight. 1 ounce of herbs per quart makes an infusion. Infusions also taste great iced!

1) Medical Herbalism, The Reproductive System
2) Childbearing Year, Susan Weed
3) Natural Pregnancy Book, Aviva Romm

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